Just a few weeks after Ball State plays Rutgers in the International Bowl, ending the Cardinals 11 year bowl appearance drought, Coach Brady Hoke and staff will welcome a new freshman class to the University. There is no better time to enter BSU than right now. The program is primed for success, lead primarily by prolific special teams and offensive stars, and an eager coaching staff. Over the past five years, the program foundation has been laid; it is time to be a champion again at Ball State. The new kids who sign this winter will enter, if not inherit, a football program on the rise, ready to arrive on the national scene. Prospects are recognizing the opportunity to be part of something special at Ball State.
One new BSU commit will be challenged out of the gate when he suits up next fall. Steve Yoder, a 2008 commit, who played fullback and defensive line in high school, is projected by the BSU coaching staff to play offensive guard for the Cardinals. "Fullback to play guard", you ask? Well, this former fullback is 6'3" 295 and when asked how he feels about this transition Yoder shrugged it off indicating his primary immediate goal is "to prove that I am there to play". Steve's "do whatever it takes to play" attitude is where it all starts; you cannot beat that attitude. It will be a challenge nonetheless and all unknown but that is life as an athlete in major college football.
Yoder hails from one of the most storied high school football programs in the nation at Massillon (Ohio). If one is not familiar with Massillon, Google it and you will quickly stand at attention. Massillon's football lineage is steeped with tradition and success. More state championships than any other Ohio high school football program, more national football championships than any other high school in the nation, and their often filled-to-capacity 18,000 seat stadium is named after Paul Brown, a former Massillon coach. Yes, that Paul Brown, whose name also hangs from the facade of Paul Brown Stadium, home of the NFL's Bengals.
Yoder will join fellow Tiger team mate and Ball State commit Steve Schott, a kicker, in the BSU freshman signing class of 2008. Schott has been recognized as one of the best high school kickers nationally let alone in Ohio. Steve is expected to challenge for kicking duties next season. Yoder is not yet as widely known as Steve but each will carry their experiences and tradition from Massillon to BSU.
Yoder's size, strength (self described power lifter), and speed (sub 5.0 40-yard dash) will add to a Cardinals offensive line that has progressively built depth, experience, and has enjoyed recent success. Mix in Yoder's humility and character to a guy who describes his mentors as "my parents and Coach Stacy" (Massillon head coach Tom Stacy) and you have a winner in the making.
Yoder's immediate goal at BSU is to prove to the coaching staff and his new teammates, his desire and eagerness to play. Coach Hoke has demonstrated that the best offensive linemen will play at BSU; Ramsey, Brewster, Purdy, and Switzer come to mind regardless of age and class.. Given the right circumstances Yoder could earn immediate playing time but that is too early to predict. Beyond the maturity and other dynamic variables required to play as a true freshman at the major collegiate level, BSU's current OL depth could hinder any prospects of playing early. Any future playing time will be determined later when the hot August haze is stifling Muncie during Coach Hoke's rigorous fall camp.
Academically, Yoder is considering either Education or Sports Medicine majors and ultimately wants to coach and teach.
As BSU prepares for the International Bowl, and with future MAC championships well within sight, I cannot remember a better time to be a Cardinal. Yoder, Schott, and the rest of the new crop of BSU Cardinals are entering a program that is at the foot of the slope, readied for the climb; solid, successful, and prepared for championships. It is a great time to be a Cardinal.